Oh Neil, what happened here? I never expected to read anything by you that didn't absolutely blow me away, but this book, while being a page-turner, a...moreOh Neil, what happened here? I never expected to read anything by you that didn't absolutely blow me away, but this book, while being a page-turner, and having a fantastic end and a great villain, felt sterile and soulless in comparison to all of your other work. I think a lot of that can be attributed to the shallow world-building that's at play. London-below and the characters that inhabit it were given neither enough time nor enough explanation to resonate with me, and the two lackeys of the main villain, Mr. Coop and Mr. Vandemar, just seemed so...random, and out of place. In fact, that's a perfect way to describe a lot of the stuff in this book: random and out of place. Definitely still worth a read, just don't expect it to stick with you after the fact. (less)
Sometimes I hate myself and my need to finish reading anything I start, no matter how boring or how terrible it is. This book is the absolute worst ex...moreSometimes I hate myself and my need to finish reading anything I start, no matter how boring or how terrible it is. This book is the absolute worst example of this.
My experience with this book was akin to being told some mildly useful advice by someone you can’t stand, find painfully boring, and have trouble taking seriously. There is a lot of good, if basic, information here, but it’s a boring and sterile read that makes writing seem soulless and mechanical; and I find it hard to look past James Scott Bell’s taste in literature. Most of his examples are from James Patterson and Dean Koontz, both of whom Bell seems to have a huge thing for.
Perhaps there’s an argument to be made for the fact that both of them are best sellers, but you know who else is a best seller? Stephenie Meyer. Best seller does not a good writer make, and while I haven’t read enough of either author to say that what they write is garbage (even though it totally is), I think I can say that using them as examples of great writing, in a book about writing, was a questionable move at best. Anyone planning on reading this would be much better served by picking up Begnnings, Middles, & Ends by Nancy Kress. It essentially covers the same territory but, unlike this piece of trash, is one of the best books on writing that has ever been written.
So long James Scott Bell. I won’t be reading any more books by you. Especially since I did a little research and found out that, besides books about writing, literally all you write is crime thrillers full of Christian propaganda and I threw up in my mouth a little bit. I wish I could say it was fun while it lasted, but it was hell. (less)
“The story that comes out on the page isn’t the same as the story in your head,” Nancy Kress says on the very first page. I know this feeling intimate...more“The story that comes out on the page isn’t the same as the story in your head,” Nancy Kress says on the very first page. I know this feeling intimately, and from this moment on I was hooked.
I’m very serious about writing, and I also have a tendency to research things I’m interested in very thoroughly. I’ve done this with every RPG and MMO I’ve ever played. I’ve done it with shows that have complex mythologies. So, it probably comes as no surprise that I’ve read quite a few books about writing. As of this review I’ve finished five, including this book, and I am working on three more. So far no book has helped me as much as this one. I took notes on this book, of every chapter. The chapter with the least notes clocks in at 200 words. The chapter with the most clocks in at over 800. That’s how packed full of useful information this book is.
So what makes this book so great? Kress goes over every topic a new writer needs to write credible, publishable prose, and to structure a satisfying story, and she does it in a way that immediately makes sense. She also does something I’ve yet to see other writing books do, which is to take into account every type of writer. Every new lesson acknowledges the differences between novelists and short story writers—outliners and discovery writers, and it offers specific advice for each. As someone who is just starting out, I write a lot of short stories simply because they’re faster and easier to finish. Finding information specific to short stories in this book was an unexpected but welcome surprise.
Long story short, this is one of the best books about the technical side of writing fiction. Period. If you need tips, advice, structure, direction, buy this book. If you are instead looking for inspiration, you won’t find much of it here, but one book can’t have everything, now can it? (less)
It obviously took Herge some time to find his legs with the Tintin series. Tintin one and two (Tintin in the Land of the Soviets & Tintin in the C...moreIt obviously took Herge some time to find his legs with the Tintin series. Tintin one and two (Tintin in the Land of the Soviets & Tintin in the Congo) were so racially insensitive that they have rarely been reprinted, and weren't even included in this collection.
Tintin in America, the first story in this volume, isn't quite that bad, but it is a fairly lackluster Tintin story, with a simple, repetitive plot, and a lack of depth when compared to the the other two stories in this volume, Cigars of the Pharaoh and The Blue Lotus. The latter two are amazing stories, with plenty of laughs, great social commentary, and actual character development. The Blue Lotus is a continuation of the story started in Cigars of the Pharaoh, which only adds to the depth and complexity of the story, and is, quite frankly, rather epic.(less)
I've read bad books by bad writers. I've read mediocre books by mediocre writers. I've read books by fantastic writers who don't know how to plot, but...moreI've read bad books by bad writers. I've read mediocre books by mediocre writers. I've read books by fantastic writers who don't know how to plot, but who do everything else really well, or some other combination of great strengths and equally great shortcomings.
This book frustrated me more than any of those, and here's why: Le Guin is obviously a good writer. Her prose is magnificent. Her characterization isn't bad either. I like that Ged isn't cut from the same cloth as typical YA fantasy protagonists and he has an arrogant streak that mirrors real life teens. The story is now a cliché, but it's a cliché that I will easily fall for on any given day. Young men growing into their predestined powers and baddassery just does it for me. Maybe something went wrong in my own childhood, I don't know.
So why, then, am I only giving this book--a book that is a supposed "classic of fantasy literature" that everyone seems to love--only one star?
Because this book was half as long as it should have been and boring at the same time.
While Le Guin is a fantastic writer, able to write her descriptions densely and skillfully, she writes in some of the most distant third person I've ever read. She glosses over major events, and the entire book reads like a summary of a much longer work. You can literally turn page after page in some sections and never find a line of dialogue. There's no immediacy in her writing, no connection to the characters. I feel as if I'm viewing Ged's life through a cracked and foggy telescope from miles and miles away. Le Guin somehow manages to be a good writer while violating one of the most basic rules of writing. One that every seasoned writer will tell newcomers within the first five minutes of their asking for advice. Show, don't tell. All Le Guin knows how to do is show, and her work is much worse off because of it. It's a shame. I really could've loved this book if it were written differently, and I didn't at all expect to be disappointed after hearing so much about Le Guin for so long. (less)
I enjoyed this story as I enjoy almost all of Neil Gaiman's stories. Unfortunately, this is a Sandman story, albeit a side one, and I was expecting to...moreI enjoyed this story as I enjoy almost all of Neil Gaiman's stories. Unfortunately, this is a Sandman story, albeit a side one, and I was expecting to enjoy it as I enjoyed the previous Sandman stories. Sandman stories aren't just Neil Gaiman stories. They are, somehow, more than that. This is not a Sandman story.
As good of a storyteller as Gaiman is, he has never reached the heights he achieved with The Sandman, and this, I believe, is because he is an even better collaborator than he is a storyteller. One of the best stories in Sandman history never would have happened if Gaiman didn't ask his newest artist, "So, what do you like to draw the most?" and been told, "Cats."
Having to collaborate with a rotating cast of artists, and working with someone else's property pushed Gaiman to the limits of his skill. What we got was a magnum opus from a great artist before he had even had a chance to do anything else.
This, unfortunately, is not a collaboration. This is a short prose narrative by Gaiman with accompanying full-page and, occasionally, full-spread illustrations. I don't care for the art style. It has an abstract, unfinished feel to it that I find hard to grasp onto. That's a matter of taste, I admit, and isn't relevant to my rating.
What is relevant is that the illustrations add nothing to the story. Not like they did to the original series, or any other graphic novel for that matter. I realized after just a few pages that this could've been posted online as a short story with no illustrations and lost nothing in the process.
The story itself is middle-of-the-road as far as sandman stories go. Gaiman invents an Asian myth out of whole cloth, and it feels similar in theme to a lot of The Sandman, though it doesn't have much about it that's unique to set it apart. This is not a new phenomenon. Many of the short, one-issue stories from the Sandman novels were not particularly stand-out (although none were bad). The saving grace then was that there were several per volume, so if you weren't blown away by one, you were likely to be by the next.
In short, a decent Neil Gaiman short story with minor tie-ins to The Sandman world, but a "true" Sandman story in name alone. (less)
It took me awhile to get through this book. I put it down several times. Normally that would be a pretty good sign that I didn’t like the book. Not in...moreIt took me awhile to get through this book. I put it down several times. Normally that would be a pretty good sign that I didn’t like the book. Not in this case.
When I first decided that I wanted to be a writer it didn’t take long before I stumbled upon the idea of the ‘Monomyth’ or ‘The Hero’s Journey’ popularized by the work of Joseph Campbell and it wasn’t much longer before I bought his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces. That book is dense, and meandering, and not meant to help you be a better writer. It is a text book about comparative mythology, essentially, chock full of examples and excerpts from the history of storytelling to help prove his points, but completely lacking in any actual advice on applying those concepts to your own stories. I didn’t get very far into it before boredom made me put it down.
The Writer’s Journey takes Campbell’s theories and makes them more accessible in several ways. First of all, Vogler often uses popular movies as examples to get you to understand the various concepts of the monomyth. Examples from works that most people are familiar with is important in helping you understand these concepts, in my opinion, and that’s something that was extremely lacking in Campbell’s book. Second of all, Vogler has come up with many of his own terms for the various stages of the journey that, to me at least, make a lot more inherent sense than Campbell’s terminology does. Third of all, and most important, he tells you exactly how these concepts apply to writing a cohesive story. He lays out when to use them, when not to use them, and how to think about them as relates to your own work.
However, even though this book is far more accessible and practical than Campbell’s, it’s still dense, and not exactly a page-turner. That’s the only excuse I have for taking so long to finish it, because it really is a great book. I also took notes while I read, so that didn't help. If someone asked me for recommendations on books about writing though, this would definitely be in my top three picks. I found it to be an invaluable resource for understanding story structure, and for diagnosing broken plots. (less)
Depending on how good a writer you are this book will either be a huge help or a waste of time. I myself have struggled with dialogue a lot, and in se...moreDepending on how good a writer you are this book will either be a huge help or a waste of time. I myself have struggled with dialogue a lot, and in several ways. It took me awhile to get through this (as it does for any non-fiction book) but I'm glad I did. I really think it helped me. Getting more familiar with proper punctuation made me loosen up and just let the dialogue flow out and there are a lot of good tips for getting into your character's heads and how dialogue can be used to do various, wondrous things. Don't be afraid of dialogue--embrace it!(less)